FRINGE INTERVIEW: Theatre queen Charlotte Otton on her latest projects
Charlotte Otton is the emerging queen of Perth’s independent theatre scene. In 2018, she performed in Rorschach Beast’s Hive Mind and developed the brilliant Let me finish., alongside being a regular performer with Perth improv stalwarts The Big Hoo-Haa. She carved out some time during the hectic Fringe season to talk to Bec Bowman about her show Feminah and the re-staging of Let me finish.
So you are one of the many graduates of WAAPA’s Bachelor of Performance Making who is contributing to this flourishing of theatre in Perth!
That's nice that it's been recognised that way. While a lot of my friends are staying in Perth, I've noticed that after a few years they all leave. I haven’t started to feel that itch to move away but maybe that’s because — being from over east — moving here has been my own adventure.
Both Feminah and Let me finish. reference your family and the sometimes rocky relationships you’ve had with them. In that sense, are you quite happy about your family living so far away from Perth?
I was thinking about that on the way here, and I am quite — as for some of the stories, I’m kind of happy that they’re not here. There are just certain aspects of my life that I’m quite happy that they don’t have to hear about through theatre.
Are you going to stay in autobiographical theatre?
Yeah, I mean everyone has these stories they want to tell, and that's the theatre I like to watch! People being their authentic selves. It’s the theatre I like to do, and getting to be my authentic self in a theatrical way is just the most rewarding thing for me.
It’s like you’re having an open dialogue with the audience, rather than having this facade of a character or a false story. I just like honest stories; I feel like it’s the most connected I get to feel to an audience.
As I was leaving the show, I heard someone behind me call you brave. How does it feel when people say that about you?
Brave — I don’t know. I mean the whole thing about women who don’t fit the ideals of Western beauty is that every time they show their body it’s considered ‘brave’. It’s kind of a backhanded compliment really, because it’s like, “Actually, you shouldn’t be doing this…” I mean, I’m still wearing high waisted underwear because there are just parts of my body I don’t want to show.
But is that being scared of showing your body, or is that having healthy boundaries as a performer and keeping yourself safe?
Yes. I want to keep myself safe. My mentor Libby — we had extensive conversations about that. I mean, this time last year I was in the throes of an eating disorder which I talk about in Let me finish. I was so much skinnier then, but I am so much happier to show my body now. A lot of people have said they've been inspired by the show. And I think it’s because I’m using my body in a non-sexual way, and using it to make a statement about the sexualisation of women's bodies.
Do you think having all these conversations with Libby and going through this process of making a performance that is about your relationship with your body has been healing?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s funny what you’re comfortable with. I have no qualms getting my tits out, or even just one tit in a very non-flattering way. But this is the first time I’ve been able to talk about my stomach, and even admit that I have stretch marks. I still can’t show my stomach in public. I just feel so much shame about it still. Even when I was doing the tech, I was like “What’s a flattering light?”
Which is a completely normal thing to want….
Yeah, but it’s not important! And I’m really trying to combat that.
The song that you sing in Feminah — the bow down to my puss song — is that from somewhere ? Should I know that? Because I was walking away from the theatre singing it to myself and Googling it, and I couldn’t find it!
I wrote it actually! I needed a song that would kind of identify the future of where I personally am trying to go. About stripping away the patriarchy from myself. And I couldn’t find one. A lot of them said the ‘N’ word a lot and obviously I didn’t want to do that. CupcakKe is a big icon of mine, and I wanted to sing ‘Best Dick Sucker’, but ultimately I realised that was still about pleasing a man. So I had to write my own.
I had it in my head the whole way home — you should write a hip hop album next.
Yeah, I do want to do a lot more singing this year. I brought a loop pedal earlier this year, and I really wanted to do a lot of loops in this show, but in the end, Joe playing guitar was a better choice. So yeah — I’m going to make more music this year, and spend some more time developing Feminah into my vision of what it can be.